Stark renderings that go beyond simple aesthetic judgment produced by some of the artists who perished in concentration...

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IMPRISONED

DRAWINGS FROM NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS

A visual testament to the horrors of Nazi cruelty is revived a generation after it first appeared.

Nonagenarian Benvenuti, a poet, critic, and scholar, hated the Nazis who moved into his native Italy. During the war, he “was tempted by the resistance movement,” though not enough to join it. After the war, provoked by conscience, he compiled a volume containing a few hundred depictions of the Holocaust, in black and white, by artists who were nearly all captive victims of Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, and other concentration camps. Included was famous illustrator Feliks Topolski, who was present at the liberation of some camps; his works were presented as evidence at Nuremberg. Benvenuti’s book, first issued in a limited edition in 1983 featuring a foreword by Primo Levi (included here), was titled KZ, a German—and Yiddish—abbreviation for “concentration camp” or “internee.” The author, whom Levi calls “an observant and devout man, sensitive to the past and the present,” has added a handful of poems to the present edition. The images are arranged alphabetically by artist, a few well-known, most not. There are many portraits of hollow-eyed, gaunt prisoners, multiple scenes of guards at their work, several views of hangings, and scores of drawings of the skeletal dead and dying. Such works are beyond the now-banal pop depictions that increasingly displace firsthand witness. Collections like this may help inform a growing generation that knows nothing of the Holocaust or its lessons, but this is not the only place where such art may be found. Many of the same images are quite nicely reproduced in Janet Blatter’s Art of the Holocaust, published in 1981.

Stark renderings that go beyond simple aesthetic judgment produced by some of the artists who perished in concentration camps.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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